After an amputation, you may be able to have a prosthetic limb fitted.

Prosthetic limbs are not suitable for everyone who’s had an amputation because an extensive course of physiotherapy and rehabilitation is required.

Adjusting to life with a prosthetic limb takes a considerable amount of energy because you have to compensate for the loss of muscle and bone in the amputated limb.

This is why frail people or those with a serious health condition, such as heart disease, may not be suitable for a prosthetic limb.

If you’re able to have a prosthetic limb, the type of limb that’s recommended for you will depend on:

  • the type of amputation you had
  • the amount of muscle strength in the remaining section of the limb
  • your general health
  • tasks the prosthetic limb will be expected to perform
  • whether you want the limb to look as real as possible or whether you’re more concerned with function

If it’s thought that you would find it difficult to withstand the strain of using a prosthetic limb, a cosmetic limb may be recommended. This is a limb that looks like a real limb but cannot be used like a prosthetic limb.

It’s possible to have a prosthetic limb that’s both physically realistic and functional, but there may have to be an element of compromise between the different types.

Preparing To Have A Prosthetic Limb Fitted

If a prosthetic limb is suitable for you, you’ll begin a programme of activities while still in the hospital to prepare for the prosthetic.

Before a prosthetic limb is fitted, the skin covering your stump may be made less sensitive (known as desensitisation). This will make the prosthetic more comfortable to wear.

Skin desensitisation involves the following steps:

  • gently tapping the skin with a face cloth
  • using compression bandages to help reduce swelling and prevent a build-up of fluid inside and around the stump
  • rubbing and pulling the skin around your bone to prevent excessive scarring

Your physiotherapist will teach you exercises to strengthen the muscles in your remaining limb and improve your general energy levels, so you’re able to cope better with the demands of an artificial limb.

Depending on what’s available in your local area, it can be several months before you get your first appointment with a prosthetist.